Phil Vettel, a graduate of Eastern Illinois University, joined Tribune Company (at Suburban Trib) in 1979, and has been The Tribune’’s restaurant critic since 1989. He has a wife and two sons, one or more of whom often accompany Phil on his culinary adventures. He also makes a mean egg-salad sandwich.

Recent Articles
  • Phil Vettel reviews Stefani Prime

    LINCOLNWOOD, Ill. — Stefani Prime, the latest restaurant in the Phil Stefani group, is a suburban spot with a city sensibility, where Stefani’s time-tested formula of prime steaks, seafood and Italian-American classics plays out in a contemporary and airy dining room. It’s a cool-looking space, classic dark wood balanced by bright, modern artworks, and it’s home to some dishes that Stefani has been doing for years, and more updated plates from executive chef Nolan Narut. There is, for instance, steak […]

  • Vettel: Chef Debbie Gold shines in Chicago return at Tied House

    CHICAGO — Schuba’s Tavern occupies a building that was once a tap house for Schlitz Brewery, and so their newly-built restaurant was dubbed Tied House in a nod to the name for taverns with allegiances to specific breweries. It’s a pretty, contemporary spot, with a spacious and airy dining room. A lounge with a beautiful white-marble bar has windows that overlook the under-construction patio and its huge fireplace, which is soon to be a popular summer destination. Chef Debbie Gold […]

  • Vettel: Bar Biscay serves up small plates with big flavors of Spain and France

    CHICAGO — Two-month-old Bar Biscay takes its name from the Bay of Biscay, which hugs the Atlantic side of Spain and southern France. Between Spain and France lies the Basque region, whose cuisine influences Bar Biscay in a big way. A dish pairing mushrooms and poached egg would be called hongos in the Basque region; in Chicago, “mushrooms-and-egg” will do. Small plates dominate the menu, and they’re the most interesting choices. Start with fried gougeres, stuffed with rich manchego cheese […]

  • Vettel: S.K.Y. brings a world of inventive flavors to Pilsen

    CHICAGO — The Pilsen neighborhood is justifiably known for its excellent Mexican cuisine, but S.K.Y., a globally-influenced restaurant, seems to be fitting in well. Chef/owner Stephen Gillanders, who worked for Jean-Georges Vongerichten, says S.K.Y.’s location was a happy accident. “You know, I think definitely ‘fortunate’ is the way to describe how we landed in Pilsen,” Gillanders said. “When we were looking for spaces, we had a very specific space that we could afford and there weren’t a whole lot of […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews The Blanchard

    CHICAGO — The Blanchard was my pick for Chicago’s best new restaurant in 2016, but it fell off the radar a bit when the original chef left. But the new chef, Ryan Burns, has the restaurant doing terrific food, in a slightly different direction. The beautiful dining room is nicely appointed with colorful abstract art, and the windows are framed with shutters and cafe curtains. Past the gleaming open kitchen you’ll find a separate salon, a nice place for a pre- […]

  • Vettel: Chef takes Michelin-starred brewpub Band of Bohemia to new heights

    CHICAGO — Band of Bohemia, the self-styled elevated brew pub, has a new chef who Phil Vettel says is taking the popular Ravenswood spot to new heights. Vettel gives the Ravenswood staple at 4710 N. Ravenswood Ave. three stars.

  • Phil Vettel reviews Sushi-San

    CHICAGO — Hip-hop and handrolls are what you can expect at Sushi-San, which opened 10 weeks ago in River North. In a sexy, minimalist dining room with black ceilings, natural wood and fixed bench and barstool seating, not to mention really loud music, sushi master Kaze Chan, who has been cooking in Chicago since 1995, produces fascinating fare. The menu is a mix of traditional and decidedly non-traditional tastes. On the one hand, you have this assortment of nigiri , available […]

  • Phil Vettel reviews Jade Court

    CHICAGO  — Jade Court doesn’t look very much like a Chinese restaurant; it sits in a space that was home to three different Italian restaurants, and the oak floors, polished wood trim and pressed tin ceilings don’t exactly evoke the Far East. But the art on the walls is Chinese, and, more important, the food, overseen by owner Eddy Cheung and his daughter, Carol, is as good as anything you’ll find in the area. Actually, better. The kitchen does an excellent […]

  • Vettel: Bellemore is ‘most impressive’ new restaurant in a while

    CHICAGO —Jimmy Papadopoulos, last seen doing modern riffs on Czech food at Bohemian House, now heads the contemporary restaurant Bellemore, which opened in November in the West Loop. The dining room looks like an updated grand mansion, where retro touches like half-circle leather booths meet modern elements such as bold murals and a sleek bar. The signature dish is the oyster pie, and it costs $65 dollars, but it sells like crazy; a flaky crust supports oyster custard, a perfect […]

  • Vettel: Booth One embraces Pump Room’s glamor with mix of old and new

    CHICAGO — The venerable Pump Room has been reborn as Booth One, which embraces much of the history and glamor of its storied ancestor. The dining room retains the overhead globe lights of the Pump Room’s last iteration, but the wattage has been dialed down and an ivory-and-cream palette added. Chairs are padded in leather, and the Pump Room’s storied VIP table, Booth One, has been re-created, right down to its exclusive private phone. I wonder how many of today’s celebrities know […]